English Doctoral Student Connie Steel

Connie SteelIn May 2011 I took my IE Pre Grad intern, Tyrell Elegonye, to San Antonio for the national conference of the Pop Culture and American Culture Associations. There he had the opportunity to meet professors from other universities and experience professional research presentations.

I am a Ph.D. student in the department of English and an assistant instructor in the Department of Rhetoric and Writing. Last summer, Tyrell was a student in my writing course. His intelligence, diligence and work ethic make him a great candidate for an advanced degree, but he might not have explored the possibility if not for the IE program. Recognizing his potential, I asked him if he were thinking about graduate school and he replied, "Kind of, but I don't know much about it and I'm not sure I can afford it."

I am the first generation in my family to go to graduate school and I remember thinking the same thing. I was lucky to have a caring professor informally mentor me. Even with her help, I remember having to take extra courses after graduation to complete prerequisites, being puzzled by the expensive application process and reeling with the culture shock of my first year in grad school. Now, I am progressing towards my doctorate and aspire to teach at the university level. I am happy that UT has a mentorship program to help de-mystify the arcane protocols and complicated procedures. Taking Tyrell to a professional conference made it easier for him to see himself as a future participant in an advanced degree program.